Ceiling Tiles: What to Know Before You Buy

It is easy to see why modern decorative ceiling tiles have become so popular. They not only look a whole lot better than conventional mineral fiber / acoustic tiles, they are also much easier and cleaner to work with. Plus, new materials and manufacturing techniques can now give you the look of traditional tin tiles, but without requiring special tools or skills for installation.

With popularity has come a dizzying array of choices, in different materials, from different countries, with different health and safety ratings, and with big differences in quality, price and customer support.

The good news? There IS a right tile for every job. This short video shows you how to compare what's available so you can order your new ceiling with confidence.

At an absolute minimum your ceiling tiles need to be Class A fire rated, buying anything less just isn't a good idea.

For instance, some Styrofoam and styrene tiles that claim to be "Fire Rated" or "Self-Extinguishing" actually burn really well. So, how can you be certain that what you are buying is truly fire safe? The best way is to look for the official logos of nationally recognized safety institutions, with links to the actual safety reports and ratings for those tiles; then you can be sure.

Not all decorative ceiling tiles are created equal, and when looking at them on a website it is often hard to tell the differences. For instance, are they made of Styrofoam? If so, that does not mean that they won't work for you, but they will be VERY light weight, very easy to break, and may not have the fire performance you're looking for.

You also want a tile you can handle and install with confidence. Some plastic tiles that look good online are actually super-thin and too flimsy to support their own weight, so you need to glue them to old ceiling tiles just to install them in a grid. That may be fine for your particular installation, but you want to know before you buy.

And for direct-mount and glue-up applications, be extra careful with surface prep when using those super-thin tiles so that the lumps and bumps under the tile won't show through. A slightly thicker tile may cost a little more, but the savings in prep and installation time, and the look of the finished project may well be worth it.

Beauty in a ceiling tile really IS more than skin deep. If you are looking at a painted product, will the paint hold up, and will it effect fire performance or indoor air quality? A tile that is the same color throughout, or has a high quality lamination may be a better, safer choice.

Just as importantly, is the tile manufactured to careful quality standards, and does the website make it easy to understand what you're buying? Can you get customer support if you have questions, and are free samples available if needed, before you place your order?

There IS a right tile for every job. Knowing what to look for will let you buy and install that tile with pride AND confidence.